cover image Across the Desert

Across the Desert

Dusti Bowling. Little, Brown, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-49474-8

In downtown Phoenix, Jolene, 12 and cued white, is watching her favorite livestream. Hosted by her virtual friend Addie Earhart, also white, who lives more than 100 miles away and with whom Jolene exchanges direct messages, the young explorer’s show helps Jolene escape from her own reality. A couple of years ago, Jolene and her mother were in a car accident that has left the latter with an Oxycodone addiction; the resulting home situation leaves Jolene isolated and hungry (“My life is so filled with If I hads that it sometimes feels like I’m drowning in them”). But then Jolene is the sole witness to Addie’s ultralight-trike crash. Capturing friendship history and mutual loss through the girls’ messages, Bowling (The Canyon’s Edge) immerses readers into Jolene’s small world, and how it slowly opens as she follows her own path, fighting against her own PTSD “car-crash feeling” and the discouragement of others, to rescue Addie and perhaps herself. Bowling’s passion for the desert and its inhabitants—as well as a personal understanding of children of adults with addictions—is clear and powerful in this tense, poignant story about the essential nature of friendship and life’s unexpected possibilities. Back matter features an author’s note. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)